CNMI marks second anniversary of Soudelor

By Kimberly A. Bautista | Posted on Aug 02 2017

Two years since the devastation of Typhoon Soudelor, parts of Saipan is still working on getting back to its feet, with some still waiting for repairs to their homes.

However, much has been done to restore the island. In remembrance of the damage brought by the typhoon, a proclamation was signed yesterday by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to commemorate how resilient the island is, how far it has come, and how the community came together during the recovery process.

Typhoon Soudelor left over 700 individuals homeless, many individuals lost their belongings, and many homes were left damaged and unfit for human inhabitation. Fortunately, no lives were lost.

To aid Saipan’s recovery, the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Effort was established solely to aid in the rebuilding and renovating of the many homes damaged by Soudelor. CARE was determined to not only rebuild homes, but to ensure that the homes are resilient to other possible threats.

Yesterday’s proclamation signing also honored the recovery efforts led by CARE and its many volunteers. The signing was held at a house in Koblerville that the group recently rebuilt from the ground up.

Although there are still 177 individuals that are awaiting assistance in rebuilding their homes, the community should take a step back and reap the fruits of two years of labor, the proclamation stated.

Torres thanked the many individuals and agencies who sprung into action after Soudelor devastated the island.

According to Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency management specialist Nahru Harper, she first witnessed the disaster in slideshows and videos. However, upon coming to the island, Harper realized that there was more to the slides and the videos.

According to Harper, it was a blessing to be given the opportunity to come to the island and personally meet people who were devastated by the typhoon. Harper also mentioned how great it was to see how much FEMA had been a part of such a huge recovery.

“Even to be able to come later and see the work that has been done two years ago is very much a blessing…we watched the films, now we know we’re doing good works out here…” said Harper. “It isn’t about the money, it’s about the people.”

A memory that stood out for CARE director Jenny Hegland was how devastated and shocked she felt to see the damage done to the island after the typhoon.

Hegland feels she owes a lot to social media, which she credits with playing a big role in getting individuals and agencies involved in the recovery phase of the island and it also got her to be a part of the mission.

According to Hegland, despite being a part of many different projects, she is proudest with her involvement in the long-term recovery of Saipan.

“I have been involved in a lot of things in my life that I am proud of, but I have never been as proud of anything as I am the work that we have done here to help families…,” she said.

Many other individuals shared that Soudelor brought the entire community together to help one another and that is the most important take away from the disaster.

More assistance needed for Soudelor victims in CNMI

More assistance needed for Soudelor victims in CNMI

From Dateline Pacific, 5:03 am on 18 July 2017

Nearly 50 families are still in desperate need of assistance nearly two years after Typhoon Soudelor ravaged the Northern Marianas island of Saipan.

The NGO Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, or CARE, has already raised $US2.4 million to assist 745 residents all over Saipan.

But CARE Executive Director Jenny Hegland says more is needed.


JENNY HEGLAND:  We still need to raise $650,000 to be able to repair those homes and the scope of work is varied. Some of those homes are a major repair where we need six to eight thousand dollars, some of those are total rebuilds in which we need about $25,000 for the building material and then the labour is donated and that is how we are able to build the house for that budget. The total rebuilds we are doing, they are modest homes, they are about 600 square feet. We are trying to build semi-concrete as much as we can but those homes take a lot longer because we have to rely on the only one contractor on island who is willing and able to work with us right now because the volunteers don't have heavy equipment and able to do foundations and excavations and things like that. A lot of these homes, they went down to the slab or every single thing was gone. We are really rebuilding from the ground up. The families will contribute what they receive from FEMA, [Federal Emergency Management Agency], but FEMA funding is nowhere near enough to make families whole and to actually rebuild a house and that is where our role comes in is we are filling in that gap.  

KORO VAKA'UTA:  What kind of situation are these families living in in the meantime? It's been nearly a couple of years since Soudelor so how are they living at the moment?

JH:  It really varies. Some families are still living in tents on their own properties or in makeshift shacks. Some are living with other family members in overcrowded conditions. Some are living in portions of their homes. Of course some are staying with friends. It really does vary. That comes down to individual choice. We have unfortunately had several circumstances where the family leaves their property things get stolen or vandalises. Here on island people are very connected to their land and not often do they want to leave their land if there is any way they can stay there.

KV:  There must be health issues around that as well if they are in that kind of makeshift situation?

JH:  We know that social determinants of health like the environment in which individuals live has the greatest impact on their overall health. Certainly when we see individuals with chronic medical conditions for example, being without walls and a roof around them, that is not ideal. However the island community is very resilient. People are used to outdoor living spaces and different kinds of standards than might be the norm than on the US mainland or other more developed places. I would say that yes it is not ideal and certainly especially if people have pre-existing health conditions it is not helping especially in terms of comfort and things. Actually I don't have any data on that but anecdotally one thing I can say too is that something that impacts people's general well-being is having hope that their life is going to be able to be restored after a devastating disaster like this. 

CARE asks for $650K

CARE asks for $650K

By Erwin Encinares | Posted on Jul 13 2017 

Nearly two years after Typhoon Soudelor hit the CNMI in August 2015, a total of 48 families comprising 177 individuals are still waiting for help to rebuild their homes.

In order to do that, the group that has taken the lead in the rebuilding efforts, the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, would need $650,000.

CARE executive director Jenny Hegland told the House of Representatives last Tuesday that the group has already assisted 745 residents all over Saipan that needed either building materials or labor but the group still needs $650,000 for the rest.

Since its creation back in 2015, CARE has raised $2.4 million to help families rebuild their homes.

Partnering with the American Red Cross, CARE has identified 48 families that are deemed to have “major needs of repair.”

“Without funding from the [Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation], we have nowhere else because we have done our search of resources already,” said Janet Santos, American Red Cross-NMI Chapter supervisor for disaster case management.

According to Hegland, if CARE is able to raise the $650,000, it could leverage the funding to secure $2.1 million in additional funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The $2.1 million would be used to finance the airfare of the Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers, among others, who have been helping with the rebuilding efforts.

“[The lawmakers] responded extremely positively because their comments indicated that they really saw the value in their constituents,” said Hegland. “They really understand the importance of resilient housing in our community.”

Rep. Ed Propst (Ind-Saipan) was thankful to the organization for assisting.

“The $650,000 [CARE] is asking for is a small price to pay, especially if you look at it percentage-wise,” he said, adding that the body would find the means to “find the funding for it.”

“We have the Mennonites out here, federal government support, and different private organizations that have contributed. We have to do our share,” said Propst, adding that it was merely a matter of finding the funding to support the group.